Redwood City is celebrating the New Year with a bang—and a boom of new construction projects underway in and around its downtown. 

By Greg Aragon
There are currently 958 new units planned or under construction in downtown and another 1,100 near downtown Redwood City.

"We’re seeing a remarkable level of developer interest in our downtown, and over the next couple of years much of this is going to come to fruition,” says Redwood City Mayor Alicia Aguirre. "It’s very positive for our community; we’re going to double the housing downtown, see new offices and new parking, and really enhance economic activity for our Downtown businesses. The future looks bright for the ongoing renaissance of downtown Redwood City."

Much of the activity can be credited to the city's new Precise Business plan, says Malcolm Smith, the city's communications manager.

"This boom has a lot to do with the fact that we implemented a downtown plan that provides guidelines to developers for how to propose projects that fit with the city's vision and community's vision," says Smith. "With the plan, developers are able to craft excellent projects that more easily go through our permitting and proposal process; it opens the door for a lot of big projects to come in."

Riding the wave of new projects Redwood City are residential units. There are currently 958 new units planned or under construction in downtown and another 1,100 near downtown. That means the housing stock downtown is doubling, and when you add the near-downtown units, it’s nearly tripling, says Smith.

Blake Lyon, the city's planning manager says the Precise Plan puts forth a pre-designed, driven program for developers. He says the city held meetings and asked the development community what they thought were the impediments for development from a local government side. He says the most popular responses revolved around the length of time it takes to get through the permitting process.

To address timing, he says the plan allows developers of small projects (30,000 sq-ft of less), who meet base standards and guidelines to move forward in the process with just a "staff-level review." For larger projects, developers go through a planning commission meeting and if they meet the standards and guidelines, "they are substantially through the process."

Developers are also saving time because the city recently conducted its own EIR on the entire downtown area.

"When projects come in and are consistent with our plan, they have very little environmental analysis to do and we have been able to get them through in a very efficient timeline " says Lyon.

Jason Check, director of development for Laguna Niguel-based Raintree Partners, agrees.

"The specific guidelines of Redwood City’s Downtown Precise Plan offers developers a clear path to getting a project out of the ground," says Check, whose real estate investment and development company broke ground last week on a seven-story multifamily project in downtown. "Under these guidelines, our team was able to better quantify the risks in the entitlement process and ultimately, the city’s Precise Plan combined with a clear project goal enabled us to get our project approved relatively quickly.” 

Lyon says Raintree's 116-unit project known as 210 Marshall, went through the city's planning process and was fully entitled in only five months.

The project was designed by TCA Architects and is slated to open in spring of 2014. It will feature one level of underground parking, 2 levels of above ground parking, and 5 levels of apartments wrapped around a central courtyard.

Other projects highlighting the downtown boom include a 305-unit residential development on Monroe Street; a 471-unit residential project on Middlefield Road; and a 333,000 sq-ft office building called Redwood Tower, that is being developed by Hunter Storm. All three projects are currently in planning.